SA joins extended emergency supply

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South Australia has extended emergency supply, with the Interim Chief Pharmacist urging patients not to try to stockpile

South Australians in need of an emergency supply of essential medicines during the coronavirus pandemic will now be able to seek their medication without a prescription, under an emergency measure announced on Wednesday by the State Government.

“This initiative is part of the State Government’s strong plan to protect the health and wellbeing of all South Australians during this global crisis,” Premier Steven Marshall said.

“Understandably there is a lot of anxiety in the community right now, but my Government is taking decisive action to deliver practical support to South Australians.”

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the Emergency Supply provision has been put in place in the context of the declared major emergency in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Access to medicines is critical, particularly during difficult circumstances such as the current pandemic,” Minister Wade said.

“The temporary provision means if patients are in urgent need and have not been able to access medical services or get to their doctor to receive their usual prescription, they can contact their pharmacist to discuss their options to get their essential medicines without a prescription.

“This will provide reassurance to citizens that they can get their medicines when they need them and help alleviate pressures on critical health and hospital services, allowing them to continue to provide essential health care.

“Pharmacists will be allowed to dispense different strengths of a product, such as two 20mg tablets in place of a 40mg tablet, or a different dose form of the same medicine, such as a capsule instead of a tablet.”

Interim Chief Pharmacist, Naomi Burgess, said it is important that people do not purchase or request more medicines than they need as we need to ensure that medicines are available for all South Australians who require them.

“The Emergency Supply provision is available to South Australians who have an immediate need and are unable to access a prescription for their essential medicines, for example a person who has run out, or will run out of their essential medicines before they can obtain a prescription due to demands of COVID-19 on their regular health service,” Ms Burgess said.

“Under these circumstances, pharmacists will be able to provide patients with drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or the smallest standard pack of drugs not on the PBS.

“People can also consider contacting their pharmacist to discuss the options available to have their medicines home delivered.”

The Emergency Supply provision is currently in place for the period of time that the declaration of a major emergency remains in force under the South Australian Emergency Management Act 2004.

Pharmacists are required to limit dispensing of certain prescription medicines to one month’s supply at the prescribed dose, and sales of certain over-the-counter medicines to a maximum of one unit per purchase.

Controlled substances including opioids, some benzodiazepines, stimulants, hydroxychloroquine and certain fertility drugs will not be supplied as part of the Emergency Supply provision.

PSA SA/NT President Robyn Johns congratulated the SA Government for extending the emergency supply rules.

“PSA fully supports and thanks the SA Government for this very sensible approach which will support patients continued access essential medicines,” she said.

“GPs across SA are under extreme pressure and this measure will provide certainty to patients who cannot access their usual prescriber due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

“As the peak national body for pharmacists, PSA has called for and worked with the SA Government to allow the continuation of emergency dispensing that was put in place during the recent bushfire crisis to ensure patients and members of the community continue to gain access to much needed medicines.”

This measure is also supported by the recent announcement by the Federal Government where the medicine can be supplied at PBS prices under the continued dispensing arrangements, PSA said.

Specific details on substitutions have not yet been released and the changes will be implemented through the Scheduling Policy Framework and Poisons Standard soon.

PSA will continue to work closely with the Department of Health and Wellbeing to support pharmacists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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